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Top 8 Hard Disk Drives for Gaming

Seagate FireCuda
Best Choice

Seagate FireCuda

5

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Western Digital Black
Premium Pick

Western Digital Black

4.8

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Seagate BarraCuda
Best Value

Seagate BarraCuda

4.6

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There’s been a ton of talk in the past few years about hard drives and their impact on gaming, with lots of people trying to squeeze out every extra bit of performance they can. Truth is though, you don’t really need a high-end SSD to get amazing performance, and HDDs still have their place in the world of gaming. For example, most high-end gaming laptops are featuring a powerful HDD as an addition to their solid-state drives.

This is especially true when you consider the recent advances in HDD technology, as well as the absolutely massive sizes they can come in compared to SSDs.

But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it, since you can check out one of our other articles that compares SSDs vs HDDs for gaming . . . written by me, of course.

So, what is the best HDD for gaming?

Best Choice: Seagate FireCuda

Pros & Cons

  • High-speed platters
  • Nand-boosting
  • Lots of cache memory
  • Flash memory can be problematic while running many apps
  • No other size options

Specifications:

  • Storage Options:  2TB
  • Speed:  7,200 rpm
  • Cache: 128MB

Seagate FireCuda Review

The FireCuda is a pretty well-rounded hard-drive, giving you a mix of both performance and value. On top of that, the 2TB space means you probably won’t be running out of space any time soon. That being said though, the lack of any other size options in the 3.5” form factor is a bit annoying.

In terms of performance, the 7,200 RPMs it provides is one of the highest in the market, with only other premium hard drives being able to reach those speeds.

What also helps with performance is the fact that it’s a hybrid drive, with 8 GB of flash memory, which is used for the apps you run most often. It does this with its own internal chip that learns your usage as you go about your day to day computing.

Add to that the 200 Mb/s read/write speeds and you can see how this HDD performance really, really well.

Price-performance is also excellent, an important factor to consider when you’re going for a value pick. At $0.039 a gigabyte, it’s one of the best around for what you’re getting. Tack on to that the 5-year warranty and this is probably one of the best gaming HDDs you can get.

Premium Pick: Western Digital Black

Pros & Cons

  • Incredibly reliable
  • Massive Cache
  • Lots of size options
  • Expensive
  • Can get loud on full load

 

Specifications

  • Storage Options: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 6TB
  • Speed: 7,200 RPM
  • Cache: 256 MB for 4TB and 6TB version, 64MB for other sizes

Western Digital Black Review

 

Western Digital is a company that’s been around for ages and is considered one of the market leaders in hard drives, making them for pretty much anything you could think of.

First off I have to mention the absolutely massive cache size, which is one of the biggest in the industry, at least if you’re going for the 4TB or the 6TB version.

With the smaller sizes, it does get much, much lower at 64MB, which is pretty bad considering that even budget gaming hard drives tend to have more than that these days. This is why I’d definitely suggest you go for the bigger sizes, there’s just much more you get out of it.

You won’t be disappointed if you do though, because the massive 6TB or 4TB you get means that you’ll basically be throwing everything in there with nary a worry.

Price-performance is excellent for the 6TB version at $0.038 per GB which is better than the Firecuda, although it does get worse as you go down in size, with the 500GB costing $0.12 per GB. Thankfully, you do get a 5-year warranty, so it’s certainly a lot of added value there.

That being said, you aren’t likely to need the warranty, as Western Digital hard drives are well known for being incredibly reliable, even if you’re constantly using them. The StableTrac and Dynamic Cache tech that their hard drives use have helped to not only extend their lifetime but also improve their overall performance.

Speaking of performance, average read/write speeds tend to sit at around 180 MB/s, which isn’t great, although with large files it can 280 MB/s. However, that's only really going to help in non-gaming tasks.

Best Value: Seagate BarraCuda

Pros & Cons

  • Lots of size options
  • Massive Cache
  • Good performance
  • Not as reliable
  • Non-competitive 2-year warranty

Specifications

  • Storage Options: 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB
  • Speed: 7,200 RPM
  • Cache: 256MB

Seagate BarraCuda Review

For all intents and purposes, the Seagate BarraCuda is actually an excellent hard drive, almost as good as the FireCuda and the Western Digital Black. So why is it under the budget category? Well, the previous BarraCuda hard drives are notoriously unreliable with high failure rates. It’s so bad that Seagate even decided to throw in free data recover if you go for the BarraCuda Pro.

Putting it’s infamy behind us for the moment, the performance is excellent. The 256 MB cache is equivalent to the Western Digital Black, which is impressive, and the equally good 7,200 RPM speed means that the performance of this drive is just excellent. Granted, it doesn’t have some of the additional tech and features of the Western Digital Black, but it’s still pretty good regardless.

One other thing that I really like about the BarraCuda is the massive amount of size options, with the BarraCuda Pro version even having 10TB, 12TB and even 14TB, which is purely mind-boggling.

Price-performance is also excellent if you don’t consider the hard drive history and short warranty. At $0.024 per GB, it has one of the best price per GB that you’ll find out there, with the 8TB version coming in at $0.018 per GB which is excellent.

That being said, if you go for the Pro version, the price-performance plummets, with the 2TB costing you $0.055 per GB and the 14TB $0.039 per GB. So really, it depends on your budget and what you’re looking for exactly.

Best SSHD for Gaming: Seagate FireCuda Mobile

Pros & Cons

  • Good size variety
  • Great performance compared to a pure HDD
  • A bit expensive

Specifications:

  • Storage Options: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Speed: 5,400 RPM
  • Cache: 64Mb

Seagate FireCuda Mobile Review

Seagate brings their excellent FireCuda to laptops with their 2.5” form-factor, and surprisingly, adds a few extra size options that aren’t available with the 3.5” form-factor.

Of course, bringing the tech to the smaller form factor means that you lose out on a couple of things. For one, disc speeds are much lower at 5,400 compares to the 7,200 they usually are at, although that’s still pretty good for a laptop HDD. Similarly, the cache is halved at 64MB compared to 128MB for the desktop version.

Neither of these is actually a massive problem, especially since we’re talking about laptop HDDs, and it performs really well compared to other laptop HDDs.

Otherwise, it’s basically the same thing, and you even get the awesome 8GB of flash memory for all your most used programs to be loaded on to. You also get the 5-year warranty here, which most people would be super happy about, although I wouldn’t be too worried about the FireCuda reliability.

Overall, this is probably the best SSHD for gaming to upgrade your rig with.

Best External HDD: G-Technology G-DRIVE

Pros & Cons

  • Lots of size options
  • Great performance
  • USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Pretty big
  • Has reliability issues

Specifications:

  • Storage Options: 2TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 10TB
  • Speed: 7,200 RPM
  • Cache: 64MB

G-Technology 4TB G-DRIVE Review

External hard drives tend to be a bit forgotten these days, with cloud storage, large USB drives and the generally better performance you get with internal hard drives and SSDs. Truth is though, that external HDDs still have a place in the world today, especially if your case can’t fit a bunch of thick hard drives, or if you need a portable solution with lots of space.

The space aspect is probably where the G-Technology shines the most, with options up to 10TBs, I don’t think there are any other external hard drives out there with that much storage. Similarly, performance is really excellent, with 7,200 RPMs and USB 3.1, you aren’t going to be bottlenecked like you would with USB 2.

Of course, there’s also a Thunderbolt version as well, so this is also an excellent external hard drive for Mac users (especially since it can also charge your laptop when it’s plugged in).

The 180 MB/s read/write speeds are also nothing to scoff at, so you really don’t have to worry about performance here. You also get a 3-year limited warranty, so that’s a reasonably good bonus, and at a $0.032 cost per GB for the 4TB version, you get some good price-performance as well.

The only real downside here is that it tends to run a little bit hot since there’s no internal fan. It’s not necessarily a problem unless you stack them or place them near other devices that put out a lot of heat. Also, it seems their quality control has problems and some of their drives can be a bit unreliable and start failing at around a year.

Best for PS4: Fantom Drives PS4 Hard Drive Upgrade Kit

Pros & Cons

  • Easy to use
  • Extra USB drive
  • Great SSHD
  • No size options

Specifications:

  • Storage Options: 2TB
  • Speed: 5,400
  • Cache: 64MB

Fantom Drives PS4 Hard Drive Upgrade Kit Review

If you don’t want to faff about with changing the internal HDD of your PS4, this is a great, hassle-free solution. While we haven't included Fantom Drives in our best PS4 external hard drive list, it's definitely an excellent option.

Unlike a traditional external hard drive, instead, this is an enclosure that you can use with 2.5” form factor HDDs and SSDs. What’s great is that this package comes with the FireCuda SSHD, so you get all the great performance it has.

The small enclosure also makes this whole assembly much easier to move around and carry with you, especially if you move around with you PS4 a lot, or if you want to take a game to a friend's house. Not only that, but it also works great with the PS3 as well.

The enclosure itself is actually pretty nice and minimal, without too much branding. It’s also made of aluminum, so it can probably handle heat dissipation reasonably well.

One of my favorite bits though is that it’s also great for expanding in the future since you can take the FireCuda out and replace it with something else a few years down the line if you feel like it. You also get a 16GB USB, which is just a bit of icing on the cake since it’s not big and the design of the USB isn’t anything particularly fancy.

Either way, it’s an excellent little package for you to load up all the best PS4 games out there.

Best for Xbox One: Seagate Game Drive

Pros & Cons

  • Great performance
  • Super-stylish
  • Lots of sizes to pick from
  • Has reliability problems

Specifications:

  • Storage Options: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB
  • 7200 RPM

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox Review

Much like the Fantom Drives offering, this is an enclosure made by Seagate specifically for the Xbox, although that’s mostly in the design than anything else.

While I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact hard drive inside, I’d hazard a guess that it’s the Seagate BarraCuda, given the specs I’ve found. So you’re getting a pretty good HDD all around, although you’re still going to deal with the reliability issues that the BarraCudas have.

Really though, the big thing here is the actual style and looks of the thing, rather than the specs themselves. There’s also a bit of variety there, like pure white GamePass Edition, or the really awesome looking Gears 5 Special Edition.

The only downside I see here is that I don’t think you can open it to replace the HDD inside, which is a bit of a shame.

Otherwise, this is a pretty awesome HDD expansion for your Xbox, great for loading all those Xbox One exclusives you obviously have.


Gaming HDD Buying Guide

Picking a gaming hard drive isn’t super difficult these days, especially since most hard drives tend to be relatively good. That being said, there are a couple of things you should consider and make sure of before you spend your hard-earned cash.

Before we begin, if you're a PS4 owner, we're gonna recommend getting a high-quality PS4 SSD instead of an HDD right out of the gate.

Storage:

Probably the most important factor here is to think about how much storage do you actually need. There’s a lot of variance in game sizes, with indie games sometimes being a few gigabytes, whereas AAA games can be a few dozen. You could also potentially use the HDDs for non-gaming storage, so there’s also that to consider.

hdd storage

Seriously, don’t put your money into massive storage that you’re likely never going to use.

Speed:

When we say HDD speed, we’re mostly talking about Rotations Per Minute or RPM for short. This is the speed that the platters inside spin at, which affects how fast information can be read.

The standard for gaming is 7,200 RPM, although you could go down to 5,200 for laptop HDDs without too much of a problem (either way, your bottlenecks will likely not be the HDD on a laptop).

Cache:

The cache is the buffer for the hard drive, between the information coming in and the information that is stored on the platters. Essentially, think of it as the RAM of the hard drive, which allows it to run much faster than it would without this metaphorical internal RAM.

cache-vs-tier-capacity

The standard cache size is usually 64MB, although the higher you can get it the better. As far as I’m aware, the highest is 256MB, although that’s pretty massive, so don’t focus too much on that.


Gaming HDD: FAQ

SSD or HDD for Gaming?

That really depends on your budget and the type of games that you play. For the most part, HDDs are absolutely fine for the majority of games, especially indie games where there aren’t a lot of files to load. Where an SSD might help is with larger and more complex games, like The Witcher 3 or Battlefield V.

But, if you can only afford an HDD, then go for an HDD, the performance impact is minimal (because game devs want to optimize games for everything).

Is a 7200 RPM Hard Drive Good for Gaming?

Absolutely. As mentioned above, it’s the best you’re likely to get for HDDs. While there are some HDDs that spin faster, those are prohibitively expensive and are targeted more towards businesses than consumers.

How Big of a Hard Drive Do I Need for Gaming?

That really depends on the type of games that you play. If you literally only play one game that is 60GB big, then you can use a 120GB hard drive. On the other hand, if you play hundreds of games, including AAAs, then you want to get as much storage as you can afford.

Ultimately, storage space has no impact on performance except if you fill your HDD to more than 90% capacity, so that should be your target.

How Much Faster Is an SSD Than an HDD at 7200 RPM?

That can vary widely because different SSDs have different read/write speeds, and different HDDs with 7,200 RPM can also have different read/write speeds.

Seagate BarraCuda Internal Hard Drive 2TB Optional Recovery System

Ultimately, when you’re making a pure speed comparison, you should look at real-life read/write values. 

That being said, most modern hard drives have good enough read/write speeds that you shouldn’t have to worry about it.

Does a Faster Hard Drive Improve Gaming?

The important point to remember is that it can improve gaming performance.

The issue here is when we talk about games that tend to load stuff a lot from the hard drive, most of which are AAA games with realistic graphics. This is where a faster hard drive can certainly help, although the majority of that will come in the form of shorter loading screens, rather than something like FPS or lag.


Final Verdict

Well, there you have it, folks, some of the best HDDs you’re going to find out there for gaming. I know there’s quite a lot of emphasis placed on SSDs, but those are for the best gaming PCs, where the hard drive can actually be the bottleneck. That being said, if you’re really jonesing for an SSD, you can check out our article on the best SSD for gaming.

Either way, I hope you find what you’re looking for. Oh, and try not to melt the platters from the hardcore gaming you do! (just kidding, you can’t do that).

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Albert Bassili
Written by Albert Bassili

Albert’s been a gamer for about as long as he can remember. Ever since then, Albert has been hooked on games, even going as far as doing his bloody best to work on the game industry, whether it’s writing articles, or writing game stories. In between gaming, he also really loves to check up on the latest tech news and see what awesome stuff humanity has come up with. Favorite Games: Dune II, MGS 1, FF X, Mass Effect 2

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